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Shock Year: 1968

  Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec

April 3
Draft Protests

Protesters in Boston, New York and Toronto stage rallies in support of resisting the military draft.

King Assassinated April 4
King Assassinated

Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had been planning an upcoming Poor People's March on Washington. An international manhunt for the murderer results in the capture and conviction of James Earl Ray.

Response to King's Death Response to King's Death

Americans are stunned to hear of the assassination of Dr. King, an advocate of non-violence and, to many, a beloved leader. The news will spark riots in more than 100 cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. In Indianapolis, candidate Robert Kennedy delivers a moving, unscripted eulogy to a predominantly black crowd. "It is not the end of violence," he predicts. "But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together... Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people." President Johnson will declare April 7 a day of national mourning.

April 5
James Brown Performs

African American musical superstar James Brown is scheduled to perform at the Boston Garden, but the city is in turmoil following Martin Luther King's assassination. City officials fear the concert will encourage angry masses of people to gather and riot, so they devise a plan with public television station WGBH to televise the concert, and encourage people to stay home and watch. Brown performs as planned, and downtown riots are averted.

April 10
Academy Awards

The 40th Academy Awards are held, after being postponed from April 4th due to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Separate color and black and white categories of Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design merge for the first time in 28 years. "In The Heat of the Night," starring Sidney Poitier as a black Philiadelphia detective investigating a Southern white man's murder, wins Best Picture for 1967.

April 11
Soldiers Called Up

Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford calls up 24,500 military reservists to action for two-year commitments. The number of American soldiers in Vietnam is inching toward an August peak of 541,000.

Threat to RFK

In Lansing, Michigan, a false alarm over a man with a gun forces Robert Kennedy's car into an underground parking garage. As usual, Kennedy is furious at the disruption. "I'm not afraid of anybody," he says. "If things happen, they're going to happen."

Civil Rights Act Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, an extension of the historic 1964 legislation protecting voting rights and equal opportunity. The new law prohibits racial discrimination in real estate transactions.

April 17
Honolulu Meeting

In Honolulu, Hawaii, President Lyndon Johnson pledges to South Korea's president, Chung Hee Park, that the U.S. will provide protection for non-Communist Asia.

April 18
Muhammad Ali Interview

A year after being arrested and stripped of his title for resisting the draft, former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali speaks with sports reporter Bud Collins about his decision and life outside of the boxing ring.

April 23
Anti-War Protests

Student anti-war activists take over five buildings at Columbia University. The standoff attracts international attention and ends seven days later with the protesters' violent removal by police. Disruptions will continue at the graduation ceremonies.

Hair Debuts April 29
Hair Debuts

Hair, a rock-musical about the hippie lifestyle, opens at Broadway's Biltmore Theater. Although the cast's nudity sparks controversy, the play will enjoy a New York run of nearly 1,750 performances.

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